“This is going to be a busy day.” I was talking to Caleb from the MBA office after picking up some things from him. It was the afternoon of 17th March 2010, the day the MBA consulting club’s flagship event was held. Consultant Unplugged, as the event is called, is the Consulting Club’s main event this year and there have been active preparations for it in the past few months. Indeed, today will be the busy day where all these preparations will turn to fruition.
Consultant Unplugged is designed as a panel discussion involving unrestrained interaction between the panelists, the moderator, and the audience. Although there is a main topic, the spirit of the discussion is such that anything that is related to theme, the relationship between consultants and their clients, is fair game. This year, we were very honoured to have four esteemed panelists: Mr. Stephan Muench, the Head of Deutsche Post DHL In-house Consulting; Ms Jane Horan, Founder of The Horan Group; Mr. Sam Wong, Director at Ernst and Young; and Mr. Steve Saxon, Engagement Manager at Mc Kinsey & Company. Without a doubt the strongest panel we have had for years, and this is matched by the size and diversity of the audience. Almost 120 participants, (though it sure felt more than that!) comprising students from NUS, NTU, and SP Jain, made up the bulk of the audience.
I was given that task of ushering in the panelists as they arrived at the venue. Initially, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Will the panelists remember to turn up? Will there be any prima donna to manage? Fortunately, my worries were unfounded as all the panelists turned up on time. I also had the opportunity to have personal conversations with some of them as I ushered them to the discussion room Not bad at all, especially considering that some of them rushed to the venue from the previous appointments or even came directly from the airport after a working trip. So much for horror stories of ultra-aggressive and impersonal consultants that have sometimes been heard.
After some eager anticipation, the event started with Dr. Jayanth Narayanan serving as the moderator. He skillfully created a relaxed and informal atmosphere to the discussion; and the panelists opened up and offered their opinion without reservation. Coming from four different types of firms, the panelists gave their individual perspectives to the questions. Some of these responses complemented each other; and some were contrasting in their positions. But in all cases, the responses were sharp, critical, and totally unadulterated. It gave the organizers and the participants an insight into the culture of the different firms, and the different types of projects, colleagues and clients that one has to manage as a consultant.
The audience participation was equally uninhibited. Wave after wave of questions flooded the stage throughout the discussion. The moderator even had to select and merge questions so that the panelists could address a larger number of the queries within the limited period of time available. Even at the dinner held after the discussion, the audience continued to interact with the panelists. Mr. Muench was very much in demand and he didn’t even get to start his dinner until almost 10pm! There were also groups of students who gathered among themselves to share their views on different topics. The place was practically bursting with energy and ideas; and from that moment, I knew that this year’s Consultant Unplugged is an undisputed success.
The interaction between the panelists and the audience lasted till past 10pm. It would have gone on longer if not for the auditorium closing for the day. As the students left the building, the volunteers congratulated each other for a job well done. As expected, it was indeed a busy day. However, the sense of satisfaction gained is worth every ounce of energy and effort that we put in. Somehow, I get the feeling that this time next year, when NUS once again hosts Consultant Unplugged it will be an equally great success.Lee Pak Kiong
NUS MBA Class of 2011
Ex-co, Consulting Club